If you're a fan of the Mission Impossible or John Wick movies, I'd recommend you watch Sunday's Inter Miami vs. Dallas FC match. Going from 3-1 down to a 4-4 draw and penalty kicks, it was undeniably an exhilarating game made better when the Herons squeaked out the come-from-behind win.
And, as usual in action thrillers, the hero always comes through; of course, for Inter Miami, Lionel Messi' plays that role. His equalizer the 85th minute came from yet another free-kick golazo.
Is MLS becoming Messi League Soccer?
Four consecutive wins, four consecutive "Man of the Match" awards, four games scoring goals (7 total) in four matches played – what isn't Messi doing to weave fairy tales into the fabric of Inter Miami's jersey? If this continues, Major League Soccer might just be rebranded as Messi League Soccer among the fan base.
The match at Toyota Stadium in Dallas marked Messi's inaugural away game donning an Inter Miami jersey.
The Argentine star, who netted five goals in the preceding three matches, found the back of the opponent's net early on. In the sixth minute of the match, Messi slammed the ball into the net with a powerful shot from outside the box. This stands as his fastest goal in Miami.
Dallas victimizes Inter Miami defense
However, Miami couldn't maintain the early lead. Dallas scored twice within an eight-minute span toward the end of the first half.
Argentina midfielder Facundo Quignon found the net in the 37th minute, while Tanzania's Bernard Kamungo followed suit in the 45th minute.
Dallas FC sustained this momentum late into the second half. During this period, the team consistently pressed the Miami defense. Dallas secured their third goal in the 63rd minute, with 21-year-old Argentine winger Alan Velasco directing a free kick into the net.
Given the pace at which Dallas was operating during that juncture of the match, many assumed Miami was destined for a loss.
However, substitute Benjamin Cremaschi swiftly brought Miami back into the game. The 18-year-old United States midfielder seized a close-range opportunity when Alba connected with Messi's through ball and slotted it to Cremaschi in front of the goal.
Five minutes later, the match took another dramatic turn. This time, Miami's midfielder Robert Taylor accidentally scored an own goal.
Nevertheless, Dallas couldn't maintain their goal advantage for long. In the 80th minute, Dallas' Marco Farfan scored an own goal for Miami. It's worth noting that Messi played a role in this goal, delivering a precise free kick that Farfan headed into his own net. The match's scoreline stood at 4-3.
And then, the Messi Magic commenced...
Messi netted the crucial equalizer in the 85th minute. The Argentine star elegantly curved a free kick inside the near post from just beyond the penalty box.
Despite the Dallas players jumping in an attempt to block, they couldn't reach the ball, which soared over their heads. Once again, the team's goalkeeper was unable to reposition himself correctly after realizing the ball's trajectory. Messi masterfully leveled the score at 4-4 with a splendid free kick.
Messi took the initial shot in the tiebreaker. He effortlessly evaded the goalkeeper in a single move and dispatched the ball into the net. Miami successfully scored on the next four shots.
A fifth shot wasn't necessary, as Paxton Pomykal missed Dallas' second shot.
Alongside Messi, the unsung hero for the Herons was Jordi Alba. He contributed two crucial assists during the match. The synergy between Messi and Alba harkens back to the memorable days of Barcelona.
Reinforcement needed in back line
Yet, defensive vulnerabilities have become a pressing concern for the Herons as of late. Miller and Kryvtsov seem unable to meet the Herons' standards.
The potential rumors about Sergio Ramos joining could potentially address this issue. Ramos is a natural leader in defense, one of the greatest center backs of all time.
The additions of Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba elevate Inter Miami into serious contention for trophies, even starting from the bottom of the table.
However, to achieve their ultimate goal, a robust defense is now imperative. Here's hoping that the coach and management take substantial measures to reconstruct a solid defense for the Herons.
Inter Miami will play the winner of tonight's Charlotte-Houston match in the Leagues Cup quarterfinals this weekend.